Franco Mulakkal was on Wednesday given a ‘grand’ welcome by the Diocese of Jalandhar as he returned from Kerala after getting bail in a rape case. Mulakkal, who headed the Diocese of Jalandhar before stepping aside last month, has been accused of raping a nun. He remained in jail for over three weeks before getting conditional bail on October 15.
Mulakkal reached the Bishop House in Jalandhar around 5 pm on Wednesday where large number of his supporters, including nuns who out numbered others, and the current administrative Bishop, Agnelo Gracias, were present at the main entrance to welcome him.
Posters welcoming Mulakkal were put up around the Bishop House. The road leading to the Bishop House was jammed as hundreds lined the way raising slogans and reciting prayers in favour of Mulakkal and the Catholic Church. A nun said she had come from Gurdaspur church along with several other nuns just to express solidarity with the Bishop.
Supporters showered flower petals on his vehicle as it entered the Bishop House and even garlanded him when he alighted from it. Mulakkal was lodged at the Pala jail after he was arrested on September 21 after questioning by the Crime Branch, Thrippunithura.
He had stepped down from his post before leaving for Kerala to join investigation on September 19. He was granted bail on October 15 after applying for it the third time.
In a brief interaction with mediapersons in the evening following prayers at the Bishop House, Franco Mulakkal said that he was thankful to all Punjabis for their blessings and best wishes in this testing period.
“I want to thank all Punjabis for standing by me in this hour of trouble. Right now investigation is going on and I am cooperating, I am satisfied and I have the confidence on the legal system of our country,” he said.
Replying to a question about whether he will be getting back the charge of Bishop of Jalandhar Diocese now, he said that the case was still going on and administrative Bishop Agnelo Gracias will look after diocese activities at the moment. Meanwhile, Bishop House officials as well as Franco Mulakkal said that a person who is appointed Bishop once is always addressed as Bishop even after his retirement.
Interestingly, at the Bishop House, Mulakkal sat on the chair of the Bishop as he interacted with the media. His supporters raised slogans ‘Punjabi Puttar Bishop Franco Mulakkal Zindabad’.